Obscure but Worthy: Looking at Revivable Songs, “My Resistance Is Low”

By Roger Crane, the Song Scout

Introduction

What is an overlooked but delightful song? Well, it is one that is inexplicably ignored, one that is eminently revivable but, for whatever reason, is seldom performed and rarely encountered. Some songs, of course, are obscure because they should be but, for each of those there are many others, that are worthy of more attention. For the first in this new series I present Hoagy Carmichael’s “My Resistance Is Low” which has a sexy lyric by Harold Adamson. For instance – –

You touch my fingertips and my heart is aglow.
You bend to kiss my lips and I can’t let you go.
Maybe I should resist, I’m a fool, I know,
But at a time like this, my resistance is low

THE DELIGHTFUL BRIDGE
Your eyes have magic, they seem to say
Come closer, come closer, my darlin’, come closer
And somehow I can’t break away.
.
Background/Discussion
The well-known Jane Russell was no actress. She was a presence, a delightful presence. A hint of self-mockery and humor often pervaded her film roles. Both her characters and her self were invariably good-natured and obviously amused by the attention. But she was physically glamorous and fun and sexy. I was watching the dismal Las Vegas Story (RKO. 1952) the other night. I don’t like this film enough to waste my time or yours with comments. The movie featured all the preferences of RKO’s then owner Howard Hughes (airplanes, big-breasted brunettes, intrigue and disenchanted heroes). In fact, the only reason to see the movie is to hear two unaccountably obscure Hoagy Carmichael songs, “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and the even better (and more obscure) “My Resistance Is Low.” Russell sang both of them accompanied by Hoagy himself, portraying, of course, yet one more pianist – – this time named “Happy.” Russell can sing and when she retired from film, went on the night-club circuit. By the way, the large, sexy Russell had good chemistry with the large, sexy Robert Mitchum and, if you wish to see her in a good movie, try the 1951 His Kind of Woman, the first of their two pairings. The other was the following year’s Macao (also a good film).
“My Resistance Is Low” is a light-on-its-feet fast waltz, the kind of song that puts a smile on your face. The main refrain is nine measures and, for seven of those nine, there’s an e flat pedal note which could get boring but adds to the witty gaiety of the song. The 16-measure bridge is a joy. “My Resistance Is Low” is apparently one of many songs that the cabaret icon Mabel Mercer kept alive in her various elegant New York night-spots. Vocalist Joyce Breach, who knows many delightfully overlooked songs, included the song in her 3-volume Audiophile tribute to Mercer. Late in his career, Hoagy’s buddy, Bing Crosby, recorded the song and, of course, Hoagy himself. “My Resistance Is Low” is not a particular favorite of jazz artists but pianists such as John Eaton favor it (as he does many Carmichael compositions). Although the song had very modest success in the US, it did become a major hit in England where it still remains popular with recordings by the orchestras of Ted Heath and Robert Farnon, vocals by Elvis Costello, Dominique Eade, Bernard Cribbins, Dennis Lotis, Petula Clark and Georgie Fame as well as by pianist David Newton.

A Few Sample Recordings

Jane Russell and Hoagy from the source movie The Las Vegas Story

Bing Crosby from his 1976 Beautiful Memories LP which might be his final recording.
This was recorded one year before his death but he was singing wonderfully well.

Robert Farnon orchestra with the Johnston Singers

4) Robin Sarstedt – another of those fine British versions

A spirited solo piano version by the Washington D.C. stalwart, John Eaton

Recommended Reading
Richard Sudhalter’s 2002 Stardust Melody is easily the most well-researched biography of Carmichael. Sudhalter is a fine prose stylist but he is also a jazz musician which enhances his wealth of detail and insights into the man and his music

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